At restaurants and bars all across the country, over a plate of beetroot salad, a bottle of Uzavas beer, or a glass of black balsam liqueur, conversation inevitably turns to Porzingis. Politicians strategize about how best to capitalize on the player’s popularity, the journalist Armands Puce, who hosts the Latvian sports show “Overtime” on the country’s TV6 channel, told me. Subscriptions in Latvia to N.B.A. League Pass, which allows viewers to stream any N.B.A. game at any time, has tripled this year over last. When asked which Latvian personality had previously received the kind of attention Porzingis is currently getting, Kalnitis said, “I don’t think there were any.”
What would happen if, say, the Cavaliers superstar were more involved in politics? “Given not only his celebrity status, but also his ability to communicate, he could have a big impact on elections if he wanted to,” said politics expert John Green, who is the director for the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. It could be for a candidates’ election, or LeBron could also weigh in on issues,” Green said. “Most of his public comments have been more about issues than candidates. And, usually, what he’s saying isn’t meant to politicize the issue, although his statements have political content.” But, Green said, “in the case of LeBron, he’s the kind of person many potential voters would listen to.”
“The issues to which he’s lent his voice dovetail perfectly into what (Democratic presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton and others have been saying on these issues,” said Chris Redfern, Pepper’s predecessor who counts as a career highlight being introduced by James at The Q during one of those 2008 campaign events. “His voice is desperately needed in this conversation,” Redfern said. “I understand all of that about brand management and talking about issues rather than candidates, but as LeBron continues to speak about gun violence, education, it’s implicitly an endorsement of policies of Hillary Clinton and (Democratic U.S. Sen.) Sherrod Brown. Those are their policies.”
Calling it a tough decision, former NBA star and current Sacramento, California, Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday he will not seek a third term next year now that the capital city is heading in a positive direction.
Johnson, a 49-year-old Democrat, told reporters at a bookstore in the neighborhood where he grew up that he’s accomplished what he wanted to do as mayor by stabilizing city finances and building a $500 million arena for the Sacramento Kings basketball team. “I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Johnson said. “For me, if I think about the trajectory of Sacramento, I think we’re headed in the right direction. I think we have great momentum.”